Monday, April 24, 2006

Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram

Can't believe I'm packing my bags yet again, relocating across countries for the second time in four months. Tonight is my flight to Hong Kong, just a few hours to go, and it has finally begun to sink in.

My mind has begun to list out things that I will miss, which is a rather long series, ranging from street cats that spring up in various nooks and corners and garbage cans of Bombay to commanding buildings that have kept their backs erect despite bad maintenance and ravaging years. It's a beautiful city, Bombay.

Did you squirm at me calling Bombay pretty? But I really do think so. It gives me so many reasons to smile. I'll be walking down some road, and if some cricket match is taking place that day (which it so often is) I am bound to discover some new obsessive taxi driver shouting out the score across the road for joy as he stands by his parked taxi. And though he's not aware of me presence, and not shouting out for my benefit at all, it just gives me a strange feeling and my head tells me, like that song, "This happens only in India". I just feel anew that, yes, I am back home. And suddenly, drab walls no longer look like brown, unpainted houses. Instead I wonder how old these places must be. As my cab travels over the JJ flyover, I find the journey picturesque as I spy the gleaming mosques in the middle of huddled tenemants. There is somehow, something romantic in the disparity of the spaces we live in, in the people that we are all together, on the things that bind us despite all the separations that we stay with.

There is something so beautiful about Bombay.

Something enticing, even in the tacky ads painted behind buses.

Something rusticly funny, funny enough to have infested T-shirts, in the shayri written with paint on rickshaws and trucks. 48 phoolon ki 96 mala; buri nazar waale thera moonh kala.

Yes I love Bombay
I have loved it since my first month here, when I first saw cats and dogs, predators and prey, skirmishing through the same rubbish pile by a building at Churchgate. I loved the way the cat just swished a contemptuous tail on the side when some dog decided to create a ruckus in the background.

That's the light I've since seen Bombay in - a place egalitarian at heart.

Where you don't need to sit in a fine restaurant and order one coffee after another to see the sun set against the sea. (In fact, chana at Marine drive would give a better view.)

Where Steven Freakonomist Levitt is available from anything between 100 rupees and 750 rupees, depending on where you buy it from.

Where managers and labourers travel stuffed together in the same local train.

Where everyone's called 'Boss'.

Which is why, I'll be back
Coz I'm in love

Friday, April 14, 2006

I think my mom has thrown away my old stuff. She has an innate frenzy for cleanliness. And she believes that all old stuff (with the sole exception of photo albums) deserves to be thrown away. Over years the rest of the family has managed to mellow down her campaign for minimalism through shoutings, weepings. tantrums etc.

But the streak remains.
What is gone is my report card with my first and only A+ grade, which I'd finally managed to earn in the last term at school.

Some old english note-books, which had superior writing style than what I've been left with today.

A diary which has the opening paragraph of the first book I'd ever started to write.

Signatures and scribblings and notes passed during class from a friend who's no longer living

A list of all Doctor Who novels I'd read, and their authors, and what they were about

A class notebook of my then best-friend, which I kept to preserve his hand-writing, after he left the country for good

It's a long list of memories, and every now and then I remember something more that's gone missing, and inwardly swear, Oh F*** I've lost that!

I guess I should have carried all my stuff with me when I shifted out of my parents' house. But how do you carry a truckload of sentimental papers with you, especially when you're shifting to a cubby hole in Mumbai?


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Unfortunately, Arjun Singh is neither as amusing nor as harmless as Calvin.

Deciding, without any public debate, to increase reservations in educational institutions to 49.5% is a stupid idea. It is politically stupid - as I am sure he will find out soon enough. More importantly, it is also educationally regressive.

There is no doubt in my mind that casteism is still prevelant, and that it obstructs the growth of millions in the country. But reservations, that too in higher education, are not an answer to the problem. It can only make the 'normal quota' students feel more enstranged. It can only encourage them to search for options in education and profession outside India.

As for those who get into IIT / IIM / AIIMs and other government institutions through lenient quotas - they may soon find that they have few takers in the private sector jobs. The brand of a quota entrant doesn't wash off easily - definitely not when their abilities are at sharp contrast to the others.